4. Bega History



The early history of both branches of the Rheinberger family up to early 1855

Information about Frauenstein whence they came, the main reasons why the Rheinbergers and other German families left their homeland to take up residence in Australia and other parts of the New World, have already been recounted to the best of my ability from the information at my disposal.

And so it was that on 19th March 1855, John Rheinberger senior, then 46 years of age, stepped ashore at Twofold Bay, with his five sons, John aged 19, Peter, 16, Joseph 10, Philip, 8, and Valentine, 5. Whilst the members of the other branch of the family sailed on to disembark at Port Jackson.

It is reasonable to assume that James Manning recruited them, along with some of the other families, which disembarked from the ship at Twofold Bay. James Manning was then manager of the company, which owned the Kameruka Estate. They were recruited to work for that organisation in the same manner and under similar terms to those under which the other branch of the family came to work for James Walker at Yarragrin.

It is understood from people who had a keen interest in the history of the areas, that they had been informed by a number of German families who had had one or more of their families die on board ship, as did this branch of the Rheinberger family, that the survivors would not agree to the bodies of the deceased being buried at sea as was the normal custom. When they arrived at Twofold Bay, so it has been claimed, they were not permitted to bring the bodies inland with them presumably as most had died of cholera. Therefore it is said, their loved ones were buried at the water’s edge. We know of course, that this was not the case in respect of John’s wife Elizabeth, for we have information of her having been buried at sea.

James Manning provided the new arrivals with the services of a guide and they travelled on foot from Twofold Bay to Kameruka, a distance by road today of 35 miles and, no doubt, no less distance by the then tortuous tracks of the bullock drays. No mention has been made of the means of transportation of their worldly goods and chattels, Were they carried on a bullock dray or packhorse, or were the new settlers obliged to carry all on their backs?

On arrival at Kameruka the new workers and their families were fed a meal of meat from a bullock roasted in the open air, and were then allocated to barrack type accommodation.

Although some of the German migrants worked as stonemasons and builders, many of them were employed as shepherds on land outside the perimeter of that land granted to or otherwise acquired by Kameruka Estate. They squatted on the land or dummied for the Estate owners, tending the flocks or herds and living in slab huts. It is said they were mostly 40 acre blocks and that when the Crown Lands Act of 1861, known as the James Robertson Act, was passed by the New South Parliament, this land was then acquired by the Shepherd immigrants. And so they came to be landowners in Australia in their own right.


Though not in a hurried fashion some members of the Rheinberger family did seem to obtain land in this manner and an examination of their dealings are of considerable interest.

The copy of the Grants of Land Purchased by Conditional Sale without Competition is in respect of Portion 37, County of Auckland, Parish of Meringo, being an area of 80 acres for which John Rheinberger (742) paid the sum of £80 or £1.0.0 per acre. The grant was made under Section 13 of the Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1861. This grant was dated 21st October 1890. From the accompanying Parish Map it is noted that he also acquired Portions, 147, 156 and 181 caking a total of 205 acres. John with son Thomas Anthony (761) also purchased Portion 55 and then John acquired Portions 183, 38 and 24 being in the name of Thomas D’Arcy as they were under mortgage to him. These latter properties were purchased from William O’Brien (this was thought to have been about 1890 but in the ledger of Thomas Anthony of 1907 there appears to be a record of payment for William O’Brien for 227 acres 1 rood at £11.5.0 per acre.

Following the death of John in 1932 his estate was wound up in 1934 when Thomas Anthony purchased the John Rheinberger, Highfield properties for £11,10.8 per acre and Thomas Anthony sold the former William O’Brien properties to William Martin Rheinberger (759) for £11.0.0 per acre. William Martin had previously been a blacksmith and then the owner of a grocery business trading under the name of Ryan during World War 1 as the German Rheinberger name detracted from sales in his store. His son William Patrick (822) later became the owner.

In 1916, Thomas Anthony had purchased Portions. 139, 140, part of 189, 152, 80 and part of 159 from Henry Wren, then in 1956 Edwin Thomas (830) the son of Thomas Anthony purchased Portion 182 and part of 143 and 144 totalling 100 acres of the Henry Wren property. In 1956 Edwin Thomas acquired the Thomas Anthony Rheinberger property following the death of the latter. Then in 1966 John (Peter) Thomas (1084) son of Edwin Thomas, purchased portion 160 and part of 56 from Heffernans, an area of 160 acres.

John (742) also had Portions 211 to 214 in the Parish of Numbugga but it is understood these were sold to John and Peter Bateman in about 1950. Other lands taken up by John at Candelo have since passed out of the Rheinberger hands.

John Rheinberger (thought in this case to be John senior) also held blocks of land in the town of Bega and it is thought that of these, his son Charles subsequently had block 78, Valentine, block 77 and Joseph, block 57.

Adjoining the original property acquired by John (742) in the Parish of Meringo, his brother Peter obtained Portions 121, 25, 200, 150, 120 and 180, in all totalling some 226 acres. In addition he also purchased Portions 9, 36, 50 and 76 in the Parish of Numbugga from William Dalling. He also took up a selection on Wents Road, being Portions 204, 205, 206 and 215, totalling 230 acres. This property was passed down to Noel Rheinberger.

The descendants of Peter Rheinberger – Evelyn (834) Veronica (835), Cyril (836), Bernard (837) and Mary Doreen (838) had Portions 78, 79, 55, 99, 56, 100 and 160, Parish of Numbugga and this property is now understood to be in the hands of Noel Rheinberger.

Joseph Rheinberger (745) also obtained Portions 145, 154 and 155, Parish of Meringo, totalling 160 acres.

In John Muller’s diary he records that John Rheinberger’s (Bega Branch) house burned down on 15th January 1900. Though there is no other record or information about such an occurrence information is available to the effect that the original John Rheinberger house was built in two sections on Portion 37, Parish of Meringo. The original section is understood to have been of slab construction when it was selected, and contained basically the bedrooms. Then about 1900, the remaining section containing the dining room, kitchen and bathroom was built. The bricks for the chimney and brick oven and for Peter Rheinbergers house, erected in 1905, came from a quarry on Peter’s property near the Bega River.

An interesting point is that although members of a number of the other German families did take up land in the district as previously stated it would appear that they did not choose land in the vicinity of that taken up or bought by the Rheinberger family.

No doubt dairying on quite a large scale was already being undertaken by the owners of the Kameruka Estate as can be gleaned from the following extracts from the early records of the Estate involving a Rheinberger: –

1861,                Clark and Rheinberger paid July, 6th , £10.14.0 erecting a yard at Gunnewah.

1862,   June    Clark and Rheinberger paid  £45.5,10.

1863,   Jan        Paid Clark and Rheinberger for 330 rod of 2 rail fence 2/6 per rod £41.12,6.

1863, Oct. 4th  Paid Ernest Rheinberger £16.6.6. Meringoola Dairy Station,

Clark and Rheinberger paid £90.10.6. for erecting at Gourlay Dairy Station.

Nowhere else is there a record of an Ernest Rheinberger so that it can only be assumed that the name was used to distinguish John the son from John the father or that it was a mistake made by the book-keeper. I feel sure it was not done for tax avoidance purposes. In any case it would appear that at this stage he was not employed full time by the Kameruka Estate but rather was self employed, at least part of the time as a fencing contractor with Clark.

The Certificate of naturalization of John Rheinberger reads:

No.71-141                                                                                          New South Wales           Certificate of Naturalization under the provisions of the Acts of  the Governor and Council, 11 Victoria No. 39 and 17 Victoria No. 8. Whereas in accordance with the provisions of an Act of the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales, passed in the eleventh year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, intituled “An Act to amend the Laws Relating to Aliens within the Colony of New South Wales and of another Act of the said Governor and Legislative Council, passed in the seventeenth year of the reign of Her said Majesty, intituled “An Act to amend the Act relative to the Naturalization of Aliens”, John Rheinberger has presented to me a memorial in the form and manner prescribed by the said first recited Act, praying that he may be naturalized: And whereas I have inquired into the truth of the circumstances set forth in the said memorial: Now I, The Governor as afore said, do hereby certify that it has been established to my satisfaction that John Rheinberger is a native of Germany is thirty five years of age and is a farmer and that having arrived by the ship Caesar in the year 1855 is now residing at Bega and wishing to possess the privileges of a British Subject, he desires to obtain the advantages of the said Act: And I do thereby grant unto the said John Rheinberger upon his taking before one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, or before a Police Magistrate or a Bench of Magistrates in Petty Sessions assembled or before a person deputed by a Judge of the said Court for the purpose, the Oath prescribed by the said last recited Act, all the rights and capacities within the said Colony of New South Wales, of a natural born British Subject.

Given under my hand and seal at Government House, Sydney, New South Wales aforesaid this thirteenth day of December, 1871.

By His Excellency’s Command                                                           BELMORE

John Roberson                                                                                          L.S.

Some time in the early 1860’s John senior, John junior and Peter joined with other men of the Bega district in a “Collection made for to get a Priest for the District”. They contributed a total of £70.7.0, which it is assumed, was forwarded with a petition to Bishop Folding in Sydney. John Rheinberger was a contributor (£5.0.0) to the collection in 1865 for the erection of St, Patrick’s Church, Bega. From the diary of Father Slattery it is apparent that Peter Rheinberger used to attend Mass, when it was celebrated 3 or 4 times a year at the home of Mr. P. McGuinness at Numbugga from 1871, for he was a contributor to the Christmas and Easter Dues. In 1875, John was the Bursar of the Australian Holy Catholic Guild at Bega.

When the new St. Patrick’s Church, Bega, was under construction in 1881 John and Valentine cut the stone on Ravenswood Estate for the foundation work and brought it in with their horse wagons, free of charge. When Cardinal Moran visited Bega in June 1886, John and Valentine were two of several men who constructed the ‘magnificent and graceful triple arch of welcome to “Australia’s First Cardinal”.

Members of the Rheinberger family, as they grew up, have, as previously shown, acquired land in the Bega, Meringlo, Candelo, Numbugga areas and there they became dairy farmers. They made cheese on their properties and this, together with cheese from other dairy farms in the area, was transported to Tathra, where it was shipped to Sydney. Later Cheese factories were established in Bega, Kameruka and other centres and then milk was sent from the farms to the factories to he processed. From late in 1904 Thomas Anthony Rheinberger recorded the sale of considerable quantities of cheese to the Berrima Distributing Company Lts. For example in January 1905 they sold to that Company 125 cheeses totalling 2235 Ibs at prices ranging from 3d. to 5¼d. per pound The chesses seemed to range in size from 11 to 22 Ibs each. In August of that year they sold 2038 Ibs. of cheese at prices ranging from 4½d to 7d. per pound. However by 1906 they were supplying on a regular basis to the West End Creamery Co. and on one occasion to the Bemboka Creamery Co. It is assumed it was milk, which was being supplied.

John Rheinberger also grew some grapes on his property made wine for the use of the family. It is said that the standard draft for the dairy inspector, who was also the local police trooper, was one quart of red wine, after which the dairy received a rather cursory inspection and he went on his way on his thoroughbred charger, jumping the gates rather than opening them.

The tragedy, which befell this branch of the family on the journey from Germany, when the mother and two children died at sea, did not end there. For on 19th August 1895, Peter Rheinberger’s young Irish wife Rosanna (nee McInnes) aged 19 years, died in childbirth, whilst their baby daughter Elizabeth, died the following day. In addition, the eldest brother, John later met his death by drowning in a well.

The five sons of John senior, all married and between them had 38 children, Of these 18 either died in childhood or as bachelors or spinsters, whilst one married but had no children. However we now find that some descendants of the resent generation appear to be emulating their forebears, indeed not without a deal of success.

Elizabeth the wife of John (752) used to carry the soiled clothing of the family from her home to the river on horseback and there she did the family washing.

The earlier generations of the family can lay no claims to notoriety either good or bad for the “widow Rheinberger” (Mrs. Peter), when she went to purchase an additional property, armed with her bag of sovereigns, was incensed at being told by the vendor that they would have to deal through a solicitor, when she felt the deal should have been concluded there and then. It was then that she said ‘nobody say anything about a Rheinberger, good or bad’.

There is one story which comes from the Mudgee branch of the family but which concerns an episode involving the Bega Rheinbergers and their friends. At the time when almost all communications and transport to and from the Bega district was through the port of Tathra which meant there were quite a number of ships which tied up at the wharf there. Now the amount of the refuse from the ships at the wharf attracted to the waters of the bay, a large shark. Which it is claimed, the sailors used to feed, with the result that it continued to hover around the wharf, The locals came to hate this ever present menace to life and limb and decided to do something about the problem. So they approached a blacksmith member of the Rheinberger family. (possibly George – or was it Henry or perhaps even Jacob who was a wheelwright as well as being a farmer) who made up for them a heavy barbed hook on a chain which was in turn welded to a steel drum. This they baited and set in the middle of the bay, Within a very short time the drum suddenly disappeared not to be seen again by the locals. Quite suite some time later a man arriving at Tathra from further north along the coast, told of the finding of the skeleton of a huge shark, washed up on a northern beach with hook, chain and drum attached.

In 1829 the Bega Valley was explored and the following year the first cattle were taken to Bega. The first white child was born in Bega in 1842. Originally, the township of Bega was on the north side of the Bega River, but following the bad floods of 1851 and 1852, when a number of lives were lost, the town was moved to the higher ground on the south side. It was then that Auckland Street, where some Rheinbergers live in the 1980’s, began to develop. So when the Rheinbergers arrived in the district to work at Kameruka, Bega would have been a township without any substantial buildings.

Thomas Anthony Rheinberger kept a ledger, which has yielded up the following information. First of all let us look at some of the prices in the early part of the century: –

Oct 1904 Sold cheese @ 5 1/2 d and 6d per lb,
4.03.1905 Sold heifers @ £2.5.0 each.
1.05.1905 Sold cheese @ 7 1/2d per lb.
19.06.1905 Bench rent £1.5.0 (For seating in church).
26.09.1905 Sold 50 bushel’s corn for £7.10.0.
30.09.1905 Sold eggs @ 7 1/2 d per dozen.
3.10.1905 Paid W. Kirkland, tailor, £4.4.0 for a suit.
10.03.1906 Sold draught horse for £8.5.3.
22.08.1906 Sold corn for 3/4 per bushel
29.09.1906 Sold heifers @ £5,2,6. each.
1.10.1906 Three head of cattle £15.2.6.
8.12.1906 Paid Miss McDonald, dressmaker, £4.0.0.
21.12.1906 Paid Whyman and Brooks £28.0.0 for Wagonette
23.01.1912 Sold 3 pigs for £2.8.9
31.01.1913 Sold 3 store pigs for £6.6.0
3.03.1916 Sold 7 steers @ £3.9.0
20.03.1918 Sold steers @ £7.7.0
21.04.1918 Sold Heifers @ £3.5.0
8.11.1920 Sold Pedigree Bull for £40.0.0


Though the Rheinbergers appear not to have taken any active part in the public life of Bega and district community, in the early stages. We are proud to record that three sons of the present generation are in the priesthood – Father Adrian Paul Rheinberger, son of John and Josephine, is Parish Priest at Moruya. Father Joseph, son of Anthony and Kit is Parish Priest at North Queanbeyan, and Father Douglas Bede, son of George and Dorothy is Parish Priest at Thirroul.

We are also proud to have had a seismologist among our number, Philip Francis Rheinberger, born at Picton on 8th December 1906, worked at Moss Vale for a short period, then went to Riverview Observatory in July 1926. He was interested in clocks, astronomy and in particular the field of variable stars. He worked interpreting seismograms under Fathers Pigot, O’Leary and O’Connell. The renown of the Observatory was due in no small measure to the care and dedication of Philip Francis who had become an Associate Jesuit Brother.

Alice Therese (776) the eighth child of Peter and Catherine Rheinberger was born at Meringlo on 4th November 1884, and grew up to be an accomplished pianist. She went to England in 1922 to study at the London Conservatorium of Music under MacMillan and attained the qualifications of A MUS and LAB. She later established herself at Bondi as a music teacher of considerable status.

From Snippets of information about life in Bega, we learn that the Occidental Hotel closed as such in 1908 and became a boarding house. Being conducted at one stage by members of the Rheinberger family. Workers at the Bedrock Stores in Carp Street at one stage included Charles and Lena Rheinberger.

It was in 1927 that the first cars seemed to be around Bega. Joseph Rheinberger was one of the last to drive a buggy to Mass. Katherine Rheinberger gave evidence of her artistic ability in her floral decorations on the altar at St, Patrick’s Church Bega which she and her sisters tended so lovingly.

Members of the Rheinberger family have played a large part in the sport of tennis at Bega. George (803) won the first Easter Tournament run at Bega in 1924. Clarice Aletha (812) took out the ladies singles title at the Bega Easter Tournament in 1928 and 1930 whilst her sister Doris Christina (811) was champion in 1933, 1934 and 1935. Edwin Thomas won the men’s open singles at the Easter Tournament in 1938 an 1939,and was district champion until the early 1960’s. Edwin’s three children, Janelle, Robert and John have held the title of district champion on and off from 1965 through 1983. Robert went overseas in 1968 to play the professional circuit and twice played in the French Open Championships and many other tournaments in the European and American circuits. He is now coaching professionally in West Germany.


1845 – 1928

# 745

Joseph Rheinberger was born in Frauenstein, Germany, in 1845, and came to Australia in the ship “Caesar” in 1855, with his father, John, and four brothers, his mother, sister and brother having died on board ship.

Joseph’s family, together with other German families, came out under engagement to James Manning, the then manager of Kameruka Estate. He later shepherded sheep for James Manning, on the site of the present town of Bega. The settlement at that stage being on the other side of the Bega River.

Joseph, later on, acquired valuable property on the Bega River flats. He married Mary Frances Bicklemayer and settled at “Fairview”. They had a family of four girls and four boys.

In the days of the Kiandra gold diggings, he used to travel with his bullock team, all the way from Bega, a distance of about 100 miles, with provisions, over country there they had to find their own roads. He and his brothers did much of the original fencing in the Bega district, and at the time of his death some of the fences were still good. Besides being a shepherd, Joseph was also a shearer and was one of the first shearers on Bibbenluke Station, He and another resident shingled the roof of the Bega School of Arts and the shingles like the fencing still remained in 1928.

He was a foundation member of the Australian Holy Catholic Guild in Bega and was a churchwarden for a number of years. At the time of his death he was described a having been a most industrious man, a man who was the soul of honour in every walk of life, a good husband and a true friend.

It is worthy of note that he always spoke in the highest terms of James Manning, his erstwhile employer.



1845? – 1929

# 768

Catherine Rheinberger, second wife of the late Peter Rheinberger, died at Meringlo on 9th August 1929, after an illness of nine months duration.

Born at Oestrich near Mains, Germany, Catherine Bicklemayer had come to Australia with her parents at the age of ten years, landing at Eden. The trip by sailing ship had taken several months, one death having occurred on the trip.

She had married Peter Rheinberger, after the death of his first wife in childbirth, After the marriage they resided in Bega for a few years and then went to live at Meringlo, where she resided until her death. She had nine children, five girls and four boys.

She was a real home lover and much sought after by her neighbours in times of sickness. No call, no matter the hour or moans of transport, went unheeded. Known as the ‘widow Rheinberger’ it was her, who made the noteworthy remark: ‘Nobody say anything about a Rheinberger good or bad’.


1867 -1902

# 753

In December 1902 the Bega newspaper reported the death at Bega Hospital, of George Rheinberger, of Meringlo. He had died on 4th December 1902 from typhoid fever.

George had worked at the blacksmithing trade in Bega since he was a boy, and for the last eight years in Brown’s Forge in Auckland Street. Physically he was described as standing 6 feet high with a perfectly developed body and the arms and legs of a Sandow. He was of very genial nature, always enjoying life added to which he was honourable in all his actions – and was immensely popular…..He was the mainstay of the Bega Football Club and a central figure of the Outlook Fishing Party.

His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in the district being about half a mile in length consisting of close to sixty vehicles ‘being a large number of horsemen and people on foot.’ Proof of the regard in which he was held was the receipt of over thirty wreaths and forty other messages of sympathy.


1898 – 1935

# 800

John Francis Rheinberger was born at Bega on 1st April 1898, being the eldest son of John and Elizabeth (nee Smith).

John senior, had carried on building operations for a living and at one stage was the licensee of the Club Hotel, – but John Francis went to learn the tailoring trade in Bega. He then started business as a tailor on his own and ‘had a good connection.’

Mary Josephine Flanagan married John Francis at Bega and they had one daughter and seven sons, the youngest being born in January 1935.

Besides being a tailor he was widely know as a poultry breeder and exhibited his Australorps in Sydney and many country shows with marked success.

He was one of the finest cricketers in Bega and was the Bega Club’s best bowler. Prior to taking up cricket he was prominent in tennis circles. He was an expert dancer and had won several waltzing competitions.

John was a prominent member of the Catholic congregation, being President of the Holy Name Society, a member of the Australian Holy Catholic Guild and Secretary of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

He was described in the local press as being well known and respected and a fine man in every way – a genial companion with many friends. He was a good husband and father, he was bright and cheerful, taking a lively interest in his work and the affairs of the day. ‘He was without doubt one of the most useful and respected citizens, an enthusiast in everything he took on and with an intelligent outlook on life and kindliness to his fellows.’

John had danced the night away at the Convent Ball on the Wednesday night. On the Thursday he took ill with pneumonia and died in the Bega District Hospital on the following Friday week, 30th September 1935.


Though separated by some 450 miles there is no doubt that, at least early in the 1900’s there was a very close bond between the Mudgee and Bega branches of the Rheinberger family, or at least some members of the family. This bond was weakened by time, distancing of relationships and, seemingly, lack of common interests until they were again brought together with the commencement and the continuation of the annual meeting together of members of both branches of the family. The year 1977 saw the start of these annual reunions.

In 1905, following the visit to the Rheinberger and Muller families at Eurunderee, by Kate, probably Catherine, the third child of Philip and Rosanna Rheinberger of Bega, Alfred Muller, the seventh child of John and Louisa Muller of Eurunderee, penned the following verse and mailed it off to Kate: –


We must part again dear Kate,

But for long ’twill be hard to say,

We must resign ourselves to our fate

And wait till some bright day.


Your presence dear Kate will be missed

By your relatives and friends in Eurunderee

But while alive we will ne’er desist

To always think pleasantly of thee


Your pleasant smiles will be gone than,

But their presence will always be nigh,

For ’twill be impossible for us to forget them.

We will reserve them for the sweet bye and bye.


But although you must leave us dear Kate,

We will always look forward to the day

When we will meet you again and prate

Of those jolly old times in the same jolly way.


But our loss will be another’s gain,

So I’11 be contented to bear that in mind,

And where e’er you may travel there will always remain

Fond remembrances by friends true and kind.


I will now bid you bye, dear Kate,

But with the prospect of meeting again

And I presume it is the irony of fate Kate,

That we should be parted, thus to remain.


Then following a visit by Alfred to Bega and Meringlo in the same year he wrote thus: –


(of my Bega and Meringlo relatives).

There is always an event in our lifetime

That we may look with pride upon,

When we can consider our thoughts sublime

In thinking of pleasures past and gone,

To unbosom our love and our pride

And to our distant and true friends confide.


I have often sat deeply in thought

Tis hard to express my true feeling,

But often as I pondered I sought

If it is possible a way of revealing

The true drift of those thoughts then unspoken

That I could rest with tranquillity as a token